Turning carbon footprints into healthy soils

by Camino Verde
Vetted
Yellow bamboo
Yellow bamboo

Bamboo is a grass that can grow 50 meters tall.  It's the source of fibers used to make paper and clothing, and a sturdy "timber" familiar in the tropics and increasingly throughout the world.  

And it's fast.  Many species of bamboo grow faster than trees.  And many species sequester more carbon dioxide than trees, a fact that has made bamboo attractive for possible carbon capture credit systems.

It works like this: the growing plant takes in CO2 as part of photosynthesis, incorporating much of that carbon into its body as biomass.  For as long as the plant resists decomposition, this carbon is captured, sequestered, sunk.  If the thing rots, much of the carbon offgases as CO2 and methane. So for bamboo to be effective as a carbon capture system, the bamboo must be preserved, as is the case with bamboo-as-timber in construction.     

The other way you can lock the carbon in is by making bamboo charcoal.

Counter-intuitive as it appears at first glance, charring bamboo is in fact pyrolysis instead of combustion and releases few emissions.  And the carbon captured in charcoal exists in a much more stable form -- charcoal can last for hundreds or even thousands of years without re-releasing its carbon.

Bamboo charcoal is like pulling carbon out of the atmosphere by some magic trick and placing it in stable organic canisters that can safely be buried -- and in fact provide great benefits in the soil.  

Our bamboo plantings are over a year old now but still need more time before they can start yielding sustainable harvests.  Thanks to your support, we're approaching the execution phase in which we'll demonstrate bamboo bio-char's value and begin to share it.

Thanks so much for your interest and support!

Nurseries for the future
Nurseries for the future
Team members at our Tambopata reforestation center
Team members at our Tambopata reforestation center

Dear friends,

I don't usually like to sound the drums for fundraising events-- it's always a little intrusive, and I apologize if I'm committing a similar annoyance now.  What I want to share is a most unique opportunity to make your support of Camino Verde and our Amazonian reforestation work count extra.  This Wednesday, July 15, all donations to Camino Verde through GlobalGiving will be matched! 

The link is right here: 

http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/turning-carbon-footprints-into-healthy-soils/

We've worked with GlobalGiving for 5 years now, and since they call us a Superstar they're offering 50% matching funds for all donations received while matching funds last.  Please consider taking advantage of this rare chance to make your donation count more!  If you give once this year, please make it the morning of July 15.  

Help us become a Frontrunner on GlobalGiving to earn extra visibility and prize funds.

Thanks so much for your support.  Read on to find out more about what we're doing now.  And don't forget to join us on Wednesday, July 15th on GlobalGiving.

Recent News

 1. Biochar in the Amazon -- We're on the threshold of a new chapter for bio-char in the Amazon.  With our bamboo groves happily growing, we're getting ready to gear up pilot bio-char production, showing how this technology can bring benefits to small farmers while sequestering enormous quantities of CO2.  We couldn't do this unique work without you!

2. Camino Verde research team -- For 8 years, Camino Verde has planted trees that no one else has.  And now our unique experiences in Amazonian reforestation will be documented as never before-- with the help of experience scientists and local students.  Starting this year, expect to see Camino Verde in research journals and practical manuals.  Future plans include a rigurous approach to documenting the benefits of bio-char for the Amazon!  

3. The CV/CACE connection -- For those of you have followed our work closely, you know of how we reforested rosewood trees with the good folks of Brillo Nuevo native community and the Center for Amazon Community Ecology (CACE).  Now CACE and CV are working closely together to share some of the unique gifts of deep Amazonia.  CACE's upcoming Amazon Store will pioneer the way for socially-responsible direct trade, funneling profits towards ecologically sustainable best practices that truly align with community goals.  A highfalutin way of saying helping farmers in the Amazon make a living by planting trees.  We're excited to soon offer a few little products of the Camino Verde reforestation at the Amazon Store.  We'll keep you posted. 

4. The CV/Uganda connection -- Many of you asked, and yes, Camino Verde consultation work in Uganda appears to be on track to continue in coming years.  We're grateful to be able to help the effort to plant trees in this remarkable country.  Don't be surprised if you see a Camino Verde / Wise Women of Uganda project up on GlobalGiving soon.

Thanks again for your interest and support.  Kind regards from Tambopata,

Research team members
Research team members
Tambopata frog
Tambopata frog
Blossoms in the rainforest
Blossoms in the rainforest
Cacao drying
Cacao drying
Spilanthes
Spilanthes
Charcoal production in rural Uganda
Charcoal production in rural Uganda

Dear Friends,

I recently had the great fortune to visit Uganda, a very different landscape and climate from our home site in the Peruvian Amazon.  What brought me there was the opportunity to help develop a community reforestation project, and the trip was a great success.  Native Seeds is poised to be one of the most important native species reforestation initiatives in northern Uganda.  It was humbling and inspiring to get to join Wise Women of Uganda-- a community-based organization of women traditional healers-- in developing an ecologically and culturally vital action plan. Apwoyo matek!  

To my surprise, the visit was also a chance to see firsthand an unlikely connection to bio-char.  With essentially all Ugandans relying on firewood and charcoal for their home cooking, a bustling charcoal trade was visible everywhere I went.  Unfortunately, the pressure on trees and the resulting ecological degradation from over-harvesting of available wood was frankly scary.  I was encouraged to hear from young and old alike that there's an awareness of the need for reforestation, but it was also obvious that much action is needed to achieve energy sustainability in Uganda.

One way to help secure people's very real energy needs in the future is through improved charcoal production that makes more efficient use of wood and produces more charcoal pound for pound.  One of the best ways to do that is by using an Adam Retort charcoal oven like the one that I've described in previous reports for making bio-char as a soil ammendment.  Although Ugandan charcoal production is outside the realm of this Amazonian project, don't be surprised if you see a new page up on GlobalGiving in the near future.  Besides, all the residue and debris leftover from fuel charcoal production can be used as bio-char!

Meanwhile, it's great to be back home in the Peruvian Amazon.  I'm grateful for your support and interest in our work.  Thanks for helping create a greener future.

Wise Women of Uganda - traditional healers
Wise Women of Uganda - traditional healers' co-op
Julian Moll-Rocek with an African mahogany
Julian Moll-Rocek with an African mahogany
A shea tree, threatened by charcoal production
A shea tree, threatened by charcoal production
Low quality charcoal is the norm
Low quality charcoal is the norm
Seeds of native trees of Mpango, Uganda
Seeds of native trees of Mpango, Uganda
Distilling essential oil in Tambopata, Peru
Distilling essential oil in Tambopata, Peru

Dear friends,

Recently I read that here in the Peruvian Amazon, an illegal thousand-hectare oil palm plantation was detected in satellite images.  (You can read the article here.) Oil palm plantations mean deforestation and tremendous biodiversity loss in many areas of southeast Asia, and the news of their arrival to Peru is a scary omen.  Alarmingly, it's estimated that in Peru over 13,000 hectares of rainforest have been leveled for oil palm so far.  

Grappling with problems of this magnitude can feel hopeless, and I've seen many activist friends grow embittered through years of "tenuous, temporary victories and permanent defeats" (as one of them described the environmentalist's predicament).  Especially at a time of year when we've recently honored the power of gratitude, it feels important to focus not on what's wrong, but rather on the possibility of doing something about it.

But back to the oil palm plantation nightmare.  With the brainstorming energy of several allies, and in keeping with the permaculture maxim that the problem is the solution, we sought out an alternative vision to the oil palm monoculture; the result is what we've been calling an oil polyculture.  Think of a forest rather than a plantation-- native trees that branch out to meet ecological goals as well as diverse and reliable productivity in order to provide decent livelihood for the human caretakers of the system-- in this case, farmers rather than plantation hands.  

The oil polyculture we envision includes over 20 species of trees providing a diverse range of edible, medicinal, and aromatic oils.  Remember rosewood?  Think of those richly perfumed trees interplanted with cacao, native palms, brazil nuts, and more.  The seedlings that make up the first 2-hectare oil polyculture demonstration site are literally on the boat right now on their way to our reforestation center.  We are celebrating the holidays and the coming of our rainy season by planting over 2500 trees in the next two months.  This first model plot will pave the way to planting the oil polyculture with participating farmers in coming years.  Can you tell I'm excited?

This is a time of great productivity and growth-- and is also a time when organizations like ours receive the great majority of our funding.  It's my pleasure to share some of our many advances and to reach out to our supporters and friends to ask that you include us in your holiday giving this year.  Plant a tree (or ten) in honor of a loved one and help us keep the Peruvian Amazon diverse and resilient. 

And now, for a limited time, donate $30 or more and get a Camino Verde t-shirt, or donate $50 to receive a dram of our completely unique Amazonian essential oil of moena alcanforada, distilled on site at our reforestation center-- the only source in the world of this essential oil. 

Thank you for helping us grow!  Warm greetings from Tambopata,

Oenocarpus mapora- an "oily" palm
Oenocarpus mapora- an "oily" palm
Our essential oil
Our essential oil
Vanilla in flower
Vanilla in flower
The Camino Verde team in Tambopata
The Camino Verde team in Tambopata

Dear Friends,

I mentioned in my last report how we'd identified what we believe is our best option for creating bio-char-- charcoal that improves soils for farmers while locking the CO2 stored by plants into a stable molecular structure that doesn't re-release the carbon.  Excitement about bio-char's potential is evident everywhere on the internet, in the world, and in the Peruvian Amazon we call home.  

That "best option" for making bio-char is the Adam Retort-- an oven or kiln designed by appropriate technologist Chris Adam-- which turns a great variety of raw materials into agriculturally useful charcoal.  I've had the pleasure of being in touch with Dr. Adam, and he's shared some of the exciting success stories of the Adam Retort around the world.  I'm including here several of the photos he sent me from projects in many different countries.  

We're excited to bring the Adam Retort to Madre de Dios, Peru, where abundant biomass will ensure an ongoing source of raw material.  Turning debris and industrial wastes like sawdust and brazil nut shells into charcoal is a win-win-- otherwise discarded or burnt (combusted) materials such as these represent an environmental problem.  As bio-char, these "waste" products become black gold.

You'll notice that interspersed with the photos of Adam Retorts from many continents are photos of the Camino Verde team in Peru flashing our new t-shirts!  Made in Peru of pima cotton, an ancient Peruvian heirloom variety, these shirts represent a tangible commitment to climate change: the tree you wear on your chest is a tree that we plant together in the Amazon.  Donate $30 or more and receive a Camino Verde t-shirt today.  (And yes, women's shirts are cut differently than the men's-- our female team members made sure of it.)

I'm excited as always to share with you our progress, and thankful for your support.  Together we're building a greener future for the Amazon, one tree at a time. 

An Adam Retort in Slovakia
An Adam Retort in Slovakia
Friends of CV
Friends of CV
An Adam Retort in Sweden
An Adam Retort in Sweden
Staffer don Juan and son
Staffer don Juan and son
Bio-char produced in Palestine
Bio-char produced in Palestine
 

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Organization Information

Camino Verde

Location: Concord, MA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.caminoverde.org
Project Leader:
Robin Van Loon
Concord, MA Peru

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